Many, many years ago, when I was a novice, our novice directress decided to take a day off. She asked us to pack up a picnic basket and blankets and enjoy the day outside.
We left the Motherhouse, journeyed to the other side of our property, spread out the blankets and enjoyed cheese, crackers and grapes. I noticed that one of the novices peeled her grapes before she ate them. Quite naïvely I asked, “Is that a Vietnamese custom?” She laughed and said, “No, I do this for two reasons. I dislike the bitter taste of the skins and, for, well, a spiritual reason!” She held up a skinless grape and continued, “See this grape? Look through its flesh and you can view the seed in the middle of it. Suppose that the seed was alive. It would only know the reality of its existence as far as it could ‘see,’ which wouldn’t be far because it was in complete darkness before it was peeled. By taking off the skin, it experiences a new reality – one that has not only light but shape.” “O-kaay,” I answered. She went on, “The skin represents our sinfulness and imperfections. Through the grace of God, sin and imperfections are peeled away, giving us a new existence and a new perspective. The exposed meat of the grape represents the virtues, particularly humility and trust.”
With that, she popped the peeled grape into her mouth, chewed and swallowed the meat of the fruit and spit out the seeds in the grass beyond our picnic blankets. She continued, “These virtues free us to grow into who we are meant to be – even if that is a grape vine. In a few months, you just might see grape vine growing here!”
As I type this story, I think, “Gee! So many years ago and I can remember this conversation like yesterday! It truly changed the way I “see” a grape!
So what is humility all about? One author describes it this way: “Humility is a supernatural virtue by which we lovingly recognize our true value in God’s eyes, and are disposed to render Him due recognition for all the good we find in ourselves.”1 Another author describes it this way: Humility “is accepting ourselves peacefully as we are – our littleness, physical limitations, psychological weakness, lack of courage or virtue, the difficulty we have in praying, all the wretchedness present in our lives, whether physical, mental or even spiritual. Being humble means consenting to our inner poverty. First of all, recognizing it, because sometimes we don’t want to face it, but above all accepting it!” 2
Yes, humility is certainly a virtue that is easy to define but truly harder to live. It is living in a place knowing that God is in control as well as allowing Him to take on that role. It is a way of service because through it we can experience our interconnectedness with one another. Through the “meat” of humility, we remain little, dependent and available for others. Through the “meat” of humility, we learn trust and vulnerability that opens us up to God working in the life story of others and ourselves.
1Boylan, Eugene. This Tremendous Lover. Westminster, MD: Newman, 1966. Pg. 84.
2Philippe, Jacques. The Way of Turst and Love: A Retreat Guided by St. Therese of Lisieux. Scepter, 2012. Pg. 44.
By Sister Geralyn Schmidt, SCC, Special to The Witness